Picture me attempting to use black nail polish. Think of some long, unkempt hair. Imagine a confused mass of mad hormones.
Puberty and awkwardness had hit, and I looked like a lollipop that had unexpectedly grown spindly legs and arms. I believed my appearance was absolutely epic with a cheaply-designed band T-Shirt. Such T-Shirt looked like it had be stitched together by people with hooks for hands.
That was pretty much me back in the day. Here’s me as a sweet innocent teenager. Awww.
Look at that tender, caramel mane. My dad said I looked Jim Morrison. The girls seemed to really like it. From behind I looked like one of them. One flight attendant accidentally called me ‘Miss.’
At the time, I used Microsoft Paint to add in some devil horns to show what level of bad ass I am. Level 666 of badassery don’t you know. (It was my MSN messenger photo for a while.)
At the bottom of the page, is a picture of me at 17 years young. Which is somehow, even worse than the above.
We had been hit by a heatwave. Being British we all simultaneously jumped out of our houses to lap up the sunshine before it disappeared, our clothes flying off and the beer bellies bouncing out, complete with dodgy tribal tattoos and a penchant for bad body odour.
After 5 minutes of bathing in sunny glory, we then moaned it was simply too hot.
Musically that year, Blu Cantrell was telling people to breathe. Peter Andre was grabbing us with his Insania. The Darkness (Remember them?) were being hailed as the best thing ever.
Sadly they didn’t realise we thought they were a novelty act. We don’t believe in a thing called love anymore, sorry guys.
Neither did we believe in Brexit or President Trump. Keeping up with the Kardashians – that was unheard of. It was a better time. Blissful in fact.
Smartphones didn’t exist yet, and the public fashion wasn’t exactly smart either. People were wearing socks with sandals, and ponchos were a thing. Onesies were coming next. The public were not the only ones with a fashion crisis however…
I had become a goth, with long hair everywhere. I didn’t want to buy a brush as that is what women used. I also turned avoided hairdressers at all costs. So, most of the time I would look this:
I often wore a dusty leather jacket, worn over a Iron Maiden T-Shirt. I thought I was pretty cool. I think I was just trying to fit in, but like most teenagers, I stumbled around awkwardly, whinging for approval, and listening to incredibly bad music. Limp Bizkit anyone?
My Uncle Derek offered to take me to Camden Market. I was spending far too much pining over women (who at this point were an alien, confusing species. So not much has changed) and watching Big Brother, so I think whisking me off to London was a blessing.
I assumed Camden would be one of those dull places that he likes- he would often drag me around museums about the industrial revolution or exhibitions on tapestry.
Instead, I found a little taste of heaven.
Camden Market was a series of stalls selling lots of alternative and uniquely interesting things- kaleidoscopes, paintings, Egyptian carpets and shisha pipes. It was very long and sprawling, and to the right of it was Camden Lock where you can go on a boat ride, which years later, I still have yet to try.
I remember almost getting lost in the midst of hectic commuters at London Waterloo station on the way. I often feel completely bewildered in the bubbling emotionless crowds of London, where everyone’s rushing about in different directions, often barging into you if you dare stop for a second. The people all seem to be in a rush, accidentally knocking people out in their haste.
I grew up in Lyndhurst, New Forest, where the population is just above 200 and public transport consisted of one bus leaving the town a day. London was still a new concept to me, so the sheer amounts of people was overwhelming.
When we got off at Camden tube station it felt like another world, inhabited by an assortment of Gothic creatures. They were dressed in a myriad of black and purple clothing, with Mohicans hair styles and towering platform boots.
I asked my Uncle if I could get my eyebrow pierced, of which replied with ‘I’m not sure you’re Mum would like that.’
I didn’t let that deter me, so in a statement of teenage independence, I carried on anyway and found a piercing parlour. Another Gothic looking person told me to go downstairs and there was a Chinese lady waiting there with a table full of needles and tweezers. A hospital bed laid await, and she wore a wry smile on her face.
To be honest this could have easily been the villain’s terrorism chamber in a James Bond film. A Pierce Brosnan one. I’m not sorry about that pun. One thing that hasn’t improved since 2003 is my sense of humour.
I was a little apprehensive at being pierced. The Chinese lady inserted a needle through my eyebrow- a slightly sharp discomfort. Quite similar to how I lost my virginity.
As she put the jewellery into my eyebrow (a banana bar) I surmised the piercing experience didn’t feel as bad as the measles, mumps and rubella jab at school, nor did it have the mass hysteria and people collapsing overdramatically.
We continued our adventure through the market. I purchased a Bart Marley T-shirt, which had Bart Simpson smoking a spliff, and I also bought a marijuana flavored lolly that tasted more like cucumber. I felt proud as punch, showing the world I was an utter anarchist, but with a posh voice and a posh name.
I saw a trilby hat I liked. I didn’t understand the reason why nothing had a price on it. The idea was to haggle with the marketers for a cheeky bargain. It was like the Apprentice, but without having Karen Brady stalking your every move.
Eventually I managed to barter, and said trilby came down to a tenner after my compendium of hmmm noises coming out my teenage mouth. I wore this also with pride. Apart from at train stations. One sudden zip by of a train and my hat would have gone orbital.
I also managed to purchase Kill Bill on DVD before it out was in the cinemas, I was so excited at the time, I had some much rebellion points with all these controversial purchases – the world could not stop me!
Piercing, a weed lollipop and now a dodgy DVD. I was the man.
Although when I got home, I realized I had to watch Kill Bill not only upside down, but with a Japanese translator present. The cover had clearly been printed out of a Fisher Price Printer.
Back in Camden, we walked through the takeaway section, the scent of Oriental food flooding our nostrils and causing our mouths to water. The vendors started to talk to us,
“You try Chinese??”
“Chicken for you??”
Enticing us over with free delicious samples, the smell of exotic spices and aromatic sauces was hard to ignore. They got very upset when we did not buy any, yet I was quite happy to stuff my face with as many tasters as humanly possible.
Sweet and Sour chicken balls. Chow mein. Spring Rolls!
Camden didn’t just have stalls, it also has alternative and boutique shops- like Cyberdog.
Cyberdog is the best shop ever. it felt like I had been catapulted into a 1990’s version of the year 2089.
It was a club merged with a neon clothing store. Bass reverberated across the shop as futurist rave music pumped through the venue. These days dancers, provocatively in neon bikini’s, prominently dance on podiums on a high platform.
On sale, there was UV facepaint and all sort of club rave gear . Not to mention the staff, who had purple hair, glow in the dark piercings and looked they had stepped out The Matrix and then assimilated by the Borg. They were adorned with wires and devices; it felt like I had stepped into the future.
There were racks of elaborate T-shirts with LED slogans that flashed, glow in the dark accessories, jump suits, spacecraft… I loved it all, but would never have the guts to buy or wear it. I wanted to go to a rave dressed like them. However, most of my friends preferred hanging out at Lidl or reading the books but not buying them at Borders Bournemouth. As Uncle Derek and I got the train back, I smiled at how amazing this place was, and how at home I felt.
This day out in Camden led me into my Gothic fashion renaissance. I now had the look to go with my mood. I didn’t get my hair cut for at least a year. The hair was then dyed black, my eyebrows stayed brown, my nails went black, my clothes went black, one day I even wore eyeliner. I was a culturally and aesthetically awful nightmare, but these mistakes were part of growing up and finding out who I was.
It could have been worse. I could have been an early form of hipster or emo.
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